I once shared a platform at a conference with John Quayle, author of the important out-of-print history of British Anarchism, The Slow Burning Fuse. I always remember him describing the proliferation of management training courses as "the final defeat of the organised working class". I felt then that it was undue pessimism on his part. Increasingly, I have a nasty suspicion that he is right, perhaps except for that dreadful word, "final".
Of one thing I am certain. Managerialism in both theory and practice is not just an exercise in gratuitous violence against the English Language, but, by reducing a workforce to objects to be managed, is also a system of domination, opposed to any meaningful workplace democracy. It offers an ideological chimera of efficiency but the reality is something different. Mike Rylance captured the dysfunction of an absence of democracy in his picture of Vichy governance in his book on French Rugby League, which I posted on below. Does this sound familiar? It does to me.
Vichy was a time of opportunism – where the ambitious could succeed beyond their limitations and, in the absence of a proper democratic framework, could act with impunity. Similarly those with friends in high places could exert a disproportionate influence.
New Labour's proliferation of bureaucracy, targets and the audit culture has often been commented on. Less is made of it as an anti-democratic choice. Nonetheless, that is exactly what a process of marketisation and managerialism is. And it is certainly a defeat.